The Iron Lady finally has her Olympic medal. The best one of all. After repeated frustration on the sport’s biggest stage, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary crushed the world record in the women’s 400-meter individual medley Saturday night to make the first Olympic medal of her career gold.
Also on a late night of swimming to kick off the Rio Games, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino ended American dominance in the men’s 400-meter individual medley, while Australia’s Mack Horton took down Sun Yang of China without giving his bitter rival so much as a passing glance.
Hosszu, known as the ”Iron Lady” for her grueling schedule, led all the way and touched in 4 minutes, 26.36 seconds, easily eclipsing the record of 4:28.43 held by China’s Ye Shiwen.
Hosszu had time to turn toward the scoreboard and savor her triumph before Maya DiRado of the United States touched in 4:31.15 to take the silver medal. Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain claimed the bronze in 4:32.39.
This triumph was especially sweet for Hosszu, who had captured nine medals – including five golds – at the world championships but never won an Olympic medal. She defiantly pumped her chest before breaking into a huge smile.
Elizabeth Beisel of the US, the silver medalist at the 2012 London Games, finished sixth.
Hagino took gold for Japan by holding off Chase Kalisz of the United States, becoming the first non-American to win the grueling event since 1992.
Hagino and Japanese teammate Daiya Seto raced away from the field on the butterfly and backstroke legs before Kalisz began to close the gap. The American surged past Seto on the breaststroke and set his sights on Hagino.
But the Japanese swimmer, who settled for bronze in this event at the 2012 London Games, held on to win in 4:06.05. Kalisz settled for the silver in 4:06.75, while Seto grabbed the bronze in 4:09.71.
Ryan Lochte was the defending Olympic champion, but he finished third at the US trials and didn’t event qualify. Michael Phelps was the champion in 2004 and 2008, but he’s dropped the 400 IM from his program. Tom Dolan was a back-to-back champion in 1996 and 2000.
Tamas Darnyi of Hungary won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Horton’s victory came at the expense of Sun, the defending Olympic champion. The Aussie grabbed the lead for good on the next-to-last lap and held off the hard-charging Chinese star, who won both the 400 and 1,500 free at the 2012 London Games.
What happened after the race was even more dramatic.
The bad blood between the two was on display for all to see as Horton celebrated after the race without even acknowledging the runner-up. Sun made a move as though he wanted to congratulate Horton, but the winner looked the other way.
They would up climbing out of the pool side by side but never looked at each other. Horton’s winning time was 3:41.55, just 13-hundredths of a second ahead of Sun. Italy’s Gabriele Detti rallied past American Conor Dwyer, the top qualifier in the prelims, to take the bronze in 3:43.49.
After the prelims of the men’s 400 freestyle, Horton was asked about a reported incident between the two at the practice pool earlier in the week. The Aussie said Sun ”splashed me to say hello, and I didn’t respond because I don’t have time for drug cheats.”
Sun served a three-month suspension for using a banned stimulant in 2014.
Horton and Sun finally gave each other a begrudging handshake on the medal stand.
The finals began at 10 p.m. local time, an uncharacteristically late start that allowed the event to be televised live in prime time to the United States.
But the Americans were shut out of the golds through the first three events, with only the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay left on the first night. The Australians were heavily favored to win that event, led by sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell.